Friday, 19 November 2010

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' Review

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' (dir: David Yates, 2010), Cert: 12A

The end has begun. The first part of Harry, Ron and Hermione’s final adventure has arrived.
J.K Rowling’s last novel in the series was a rollercoaster ride of self-discovery, trauma and chaos that had Potter fans like me craving each and every page. Director David Yates, who is now the veteran Potter filmmaker (He has directed 4 of the 8 features), has an incredibly huge burden resting on his shoulders. All the previous Potter films have been brilliant in different ways but the ‘Deathly Hallows’ requires vast knowledge of the text, skill and dedication in order to give our favourite trio the send off they deserve. Seeing as we don’t have to say farewell yet; has Yates managed to create a great film out of the first half of the story and given audiences enough to burst with excitement for part 2 in July?

Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) have left home and Hogwarts and set out alone into the big bad world. Harry is determined to do Dumbledore’s bidding by finding and destroying the remaining Horcruxes which will destroy Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) once and for all. However, the trio’s adventure is becoming harder every minute. Voldermort’s Death Eaters and the Ministry of Magic’s Snatchers are after them and tracking their every move. Everything and everyone in the wizarding world is corrupt leading to a massive surge of dishonesty and paranoia, even Dumbledore’s name is being used in vain after a controversial book on his life by Rita Skeeter is released. Nowhere is safe and nobody can be trusted leaving Harry, Ron and Hermione more vulnerable than they could have ever imagined.
 Firstly, and most importantly; for fans of the book, you will not be disappointed. The screen adaptation of the ‘Deathly Hallows’ is greatly faithful to the novel. Key characters, stories, settings and information are portrayed on screen which is great to see. As for the film in general, it’s utterly brilliant; easily one of the best Potter films to date.
 The main thing that separates this movie from the previous is how cinematic it feels; losing Hogwarts has opened up so many more doors for the characters and the wizarding world in general. Some of the cinematography in this film is awe-inspiring; sweeping fields of lush green grass, thick mist streaming across rock faces and other images look like something from a National Geographic calendar. The movie also sports a gorgeous animated sequence for the telling of the ‘Three Brothers’ tale. The animation has the gothic feel of Tim Burton’s pictures or a Neil Gaiman graphic novel; it’s a warped and incredibly dark piece that slots into the film wonderfully.
 The other majorly different feature between this film and the previous entries is the subject matter. For all those who have read the book, it’s a deeply saddening and twisted story laced with deceit, murder and solitude. This is not kid’s stuff, and the film expresses this greatly. Menace, threat and even a brief scene of Bellatrix LeStrange (Helena Bonham Carter) performing torture circles this film making it at some points an uncomfortable experience. I don’t want to sound boring but I certainly wouldn’t let smaller children see this film; it’s fairly complex and contains images that may be pretty tough on youngsters.
Still from 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' (2010)
 With the absence of Hogwarts, Dumbledore, the Burrow, the Order and anywhere or anyone else safe, this film really feels isolated just like its characters. It’s here we can really see the trio’s relationship grow and tarnish; Harry, Ron and Hermione depend on each other hugely but usually they have others not far away to help them. In this film they must move every day to avoid being caught; they really are alone in a terribly dangerous environment and it’s a pleasure to watch how different their friendship has become.
 This film, like all the others is long, in fact it’s 146 minutes long to be précise, which considering it’s only the first part of the story seems like quite a stretch, but actually Yates and his loyal team provide plenty to keep you entertained throughout its mega duration; from its stunning battle sequences to its nerve-shuddering tension, it’s safe to say you probably won’t be checking your watch every 30 minutes. Great film composer Alexandre Desplat provides a compelling and progressive score that haunts each and every scene. From crashing symbols to timid chimes, the music in the film only adds to the eerie atmosphere that surrounds our heroes.  
 The main thing that this picture needed to succeed however was great performances. This story is about the characters and how they interact so our three musketeers needed to deliver, and boy did they. Radcliffe pours his heart and soul into Harry and his passion for the character is continuously apparent throughout the picture. He brings a tear to your eye and shows audiences that behind the scar and the legend, he is a damaged and lonely young man. Grint has dropped the majority of Ron’s clumsy humour and become more adult which is refreshing. He has developed into a fine actor and he packs the punches here. Watson too has blossomed and portrays Hermione’s emotive state brilliantly. She’s torn between two boys, and basically two lives, but she strives for what’s right. The other performances are enjoyable too; Rhys Ifans takes on the important role of Xenophilius Lovegood; editor of The Quibbler, which he nails. He provides all the right madness and desperation the character expresses in the novel. Bill Nighy fills Minister Rufus Scrimgeour’s shoes which may only be for a brief period, but he provides the goods.  
 I will say however, if you haven’t seen the previous Harry Potter films, do not watch this one until you have. This may be a blockbuster movie, but it requires massive amounts of prior knowledge of the series. Newcomers will find themselves perplexed, confused and probably bored.
The ‘Deathly Hallows: Part 1’ is a fabulous film and one of Harry’s best adventures yet. It’s up there with ‘The Prisoner of Azkaban’ (2004) and ‘The Order of the Phoenix’ (2007).
Verdict: 5 out of 5 – An utter knockout. A beautiful film that’s made with perfection and excellence, and that’s performed with great skill and passion. July, please hurry up.
By Chris Haydon

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